So if you are reading this you’ve probably already seen ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’. In 2017 I reviewed ‘Justice League’ which was a lukewarm review in which I didn’t really have much to say. Basically I said it was an OK film, not great but fun in parts, it was no challenger to anything Marvel was doing with their movies. When I read last year that the Snyder cut of Justice League would be released I decided to go back and rewatch ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Batman V Superman‘ and the 2017 version of ‘Justice League’. Watching these movies so close together I realized that the 2017 ‘Justice League’ was tonally way off the movies leading into it, it felt very off in terms of characters and the artistic representation of Zack’s that we can all agree is his strong point. The 2017 cut felt perfunctory. Rewatching it then for the second time I realized how big a change the movie had made and how jarring it was.
Now in 2021, three years and a half years later, I get to watch the original vision of what the movie was supposed to be. My opinion. It’s better but it still wouldn’t have been the success the studio hoped it would be. Why? Firstly, this movie is over 4 hours long. I didn’t get bored and wasn’t bothered by that at all but if this had come out in 2017 it wouldn’t have been 4 hours. It would have been under 2 and a half hours. The 2017 version was 2 hours long. Obviously that’s what the studio wanted, they didn’t feel they had a strong hand. A 2 hour movie can get more people in and out quicker. I can’t imagine watching this 2021 version cut into less than 2 hours 30 minutes. I don’t blame Zack for that. Having to introduce so many characters, give them a back story while servicing the main story of a film which was envisioned as a trilogy that the studio pushed down to two and then after the release of ‘Batman V Superman’ to one movie with a possible sequel, was an impossible task. There in lies the real problem with how they started these DC movies. We had lots of Marvel movies to get to know their heroes, grow with them, care about them and fall in love with them as we got to ‘Avengers’ and beyond. The Warner Brother’s approach was a shotgun wedding. Start with a movie that introduced all these new characters and give them spin off movies later. You start with a movie like ‘Justice League’ that brings all these heroes together for an epic world saving battle and you want the audience to invest themselves and shed a tear over characters they’ve barely been introduced to? The audience needs a little courting.
So would this movie have succeeded where the original failed considering that it would never have been released as a 4 hour movie? No. Does it succeed now? Yes. But only as a 4 hour movie. We have 3 new characters, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash to introduce and develop in this movie, along with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the main Villain and laying the seeds for an epic story in future sequels. In fact, this version of ‘Justice League’ feels very much about the Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman. I was surprised how little Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are a part of this. Superman is hardly in it, Wonder Woman serves the expository role for much of the film, Batman serves as the hero bringing everyone together but there is little to his story other than serving this purpose. Superman’s role is basically the muscle of the group.
Is this an ‘Avengers’ level beating movie? I think no. It definitely isn’t on par with ‘Infinity War’ or ‘Endgame’ in any way but again those were movies with characters we had spent 10 years (and 22 movies) watching. ‘Justice League’ was a movie we had spent 2 hours watching. A year if you count Batman V Superman and 4 years (4 movies in total) if you count ‘Man of Steel’ in which we were introduced to Superman, a hero who destroyed a City full of people to defeat a bad guy. There’s not much love there yet. ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ actually makes me care about these characters, and again, I don’t think I could have developed an attachment to them if the movie was not 4 hours. That brings me to my next point. This ‘Justice League’ still feels like a course correction. Superman and Batman are toned down, they murder a lot less people, their personalities aren’t as dark or as brooding and they are kinda likeable this time. They aren’t egomaniacs. But don’t worry if you like that sort of thing because Wonder Woman kills a ton of people at the beginning of this movie. If you are pro capital punishment you’ll love these heroes, these guys don’t believe in jail! With that said there isn’t anything I really disliked about this movie, I wasn’t shaking my head or rolling my eyes. In fact, I thought Wonder Woman was awesome in this movie and I love how Snyder portrayed the character and showed her powers to full effect.
What I liked least was probably the epilogue or better put, the material shot for this movie that was not originally part of the 2017 version Snyder had hoped to release. Specifically I’m talked about the nightmare sequence and the interaction with Martian Manhunter. I felt the nightmare sequence wasn’t necessary. The dialogue between the Joker and Batman felt clunky and rushed and what was the ultimate point of it? This extra material sets up a sequel but how likely are we to get a sequel?
There are a lot of pieces involved to get a sequel to this made. Finishing the effects of a movie already shot is one thing but filming an entirely new movie and bringing back the cast is a whole other endeavor. Obviously I think they should make at least A sequel to round off the story. If the studio would go as far as to shoot the first movie twice and splash down $70 million three years later to complete a movie they abandoned then surely they have the money in the piggy bank to do another movie for the Justice League. I mean, why not? You have the first Wonder Woman and Aquaman movies making over $1 billion each at the box office. Henry Cavill seems like he is contracted for at least one other appearance as Superman in a DC movie, whether that is ‘Black Adam’ or ‘Shazam’ or this. His star power is rising in Hollywood with movies like ‘ Mission Impossible’ and ‘The Witcher’ series on netflix. Ben Affleck was universally liked by everyone who watched ‘Batman V Superman’ and is already returning for The Flash movie. WB won’t be making any other ‘Justice League’ movies. Not for a long long long time, so why not?
The one thing that has surprised me in all of this is how positive the reviews are from mainstream media. I think there is generally a lot of goodwill towards this cut and finally seeing “the Director’s vision”. I personally think it’s the best of Zack’s DC work. It’s the one I feel most comfortable with. I think in terms of the other DC movies in this era that ‘Aquaman ‘ and ‘Wonder Woman 84’ are more fun. They are movies that I would feel comfortable taking kids to watch. ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Batman V Superman’ and Justice League 2021 are movies that are dark, adult, violent and distant from the more colorful images we have when we think of some of our DC heroes. They aren’t for everyone. But that’s OK. There is room for all kinds of interpretations and opinions will vary. What I can say is that if they don’t continue this particular vision laid out by Snyder then we are probably very unlikely to ever see something like this again.
Favorite Quote: “She’s 5,000 years old, Barry. Every guy’s a younger guy.” – Cyborg